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Ultralight fun in the Los Padres
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Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Ultralight fun in the Los Padres on 04/07/2009 14:04:12 MDT Print View

I spent a fun 9 days out in the Los Padres National Forest trying out some gear, doing a little volunteer work and mostly just enjoying myself. Here are pictures if you are interested:

I got to try out some of Gossamer Gear's Lightrek poles. I really really liked them. They felt really strong even though they are so light they feel like they're going to float away. There were about 100 river crossings (not exaggerating) and the poles worked as well as any others I've ever used.

I brought a tarp (8x10 Equinox silnylon) and really enjoyed using it. I had not camped with a tarp before. I was really nervous my boyfriend would not like it. I spent weeks practicing setting it up in the back yard after work so that I would be able to set it up easily so he'd be comfortable. After a few days of using it he turned to me and said, "How long have we had this thing and not used it? It's really cool!" Yay! A convert. I saved him from carrying a 6lb tent and a 6lb backpack to carry it, too.

I also got to try out my G4 pack. It's really hot against my back, but otherwise, with all my light gear, I almost forgot I was wearing it. I flew up the hills, I was able to hop across the creeks, I was able to negotiate trails that are almost completely abandoned with fallen trees and unstable tread full of rocks and holes and do it all with the same ease as being a day hiker.

I joked my pack was so light it's ok to add a shovel as I lugged a big old shovel up to one of the camp sites.

Anyway, I've been working over the years to go ultralight and I think I've finally tipped the scales into the ultralight side. My base was about 10lbs or so, maybe a little under, and I was carrying the shelter for two.

It was funny when my friends and I hiked past these three guys, one of whom was hauling in a steel and canvas folding chair, the kind with the cup holders in the arm rests. We ran by him at about 4 mph and said "the fun goes up when the weight goes down!"

It took all I could do not to say the same to my other friend when I saw that he brought all this heavy gear with him. He kept telling me he likes his comforts. I wasn't in the least uncomfortable. I think I just made him nervous. Nevertheless, he did keep up with me pretty well.

I guess I need to go ultralight to stay in front of the stronger men and keep them in line when we lose the trails (a common occurrence in my neck of the woods). It works so much better when I'm in the front. They actually respect me more if I appear stronger it seems.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ultralight fun in the Los Padres on 04/07/2009 14:11:34 MDT Print View

Thanks for listening to my alter ego and posting the link to your trip! Those are wonderful pictures.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Ultralight fun in the Los Padres on 04/07/2009 14:25:57 MDT Print View

So it sounds like you got all your issues with packing and stiffening the G4 solved, huh? Or are there some tricks you need to share?

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Ultralight fun in the Los Padres on 04/07/2009 14:52:22 MDT Print View

I just tossed everything in. I have put some of my little bags into a bigger bag. It's an extra bag, but it does not weigh very much. So many other things have been removed from their bags that I think it comes out even.

Other than that, the only issue I have with the pack, aside from it overheating my back, is where to put my water bladder. I finally put it between the folds of my sleeping pad, which I store inside the pack. Not sure how this will work when I get a new Z-rest. I used the K-mart blue pad this time and while it does not work very well with my quilt, it works well inside the pack with my bladder tucked away in the fold.

I'm going to try the back panel of a small, cheapie backpack in the G4 back pad pocket. I can use it as a sit pad. It's pretty light and I think it will be less sweaty than having closed cell foam right against my back.

I forgot to mention that some of my friends on the trip were testing the new Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack. I got to try one on. It's a really nice pack. It felt really good. I like how narrow it is. I also really like the stretchy mesh pockets. It's made for the kind of bushwhacking trails we have in our area with harsh, scratchy brush. It's very durable. But my G4 did fine, too. Not a scratch.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Ultralight fun in the Los Padres on 04/07/2009 18:08:20 MDT Print View


You timed the wild flower bloom perfectly!! Golden Poppies... my favorite.

Also with all the concern with using a tarp, looks like you got than down. Good to see you practicing several types of pitches.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Ultralight fun in the Los Padres on 04/08/2009 16:51:54 MDT Print View

I just bought a used z-rest to cut up and try in the pad pocket of my younger son's G4. Think that would be an improvement over the sit pad? Do you have the GG sit pad in your G4?

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Z-Rest on 04/08/2009 18:06:00 MDT Print View

First of all, that is a nice article and the pictures are amazing. Perfect time to be out in that area.

The thing you will notice with the Z-Rest is it is more rigid than the SitLight. I think that will keep it off the back a bit more since it won't conform to the back as much. I sometimes use a SitLight in my Mariposa Plus and it doesn't bug me because I sweat no matter what is back there. I also use a TorsoLite and put a bit of air in it. The SitLight may come along to do just that: to sit on.

The G4 is a big pack. Takes a lot of stuff to fill it up.

Edited by scottbentz on 04/08/2009 18:06:43 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Z-Rest on 04/08/2009 21:15:59 MDT Print View

I find the sweatiness of the pack almost unbearable. I cannot stand having any kind of pad in the back panel. Even putting the pad inside the pack and letting that rest against my back feels horrible. Even not having a pad in the back seemed to be unbearable, too. The pack is cloying in the way it hugs my back.

What I was able to tolerate was folding a 12 inch length cut off my blue foam pad into thirds and shoving that into the bottom back pad pocket. Having it in the bottom pocket seemed to allow me to get the pack off my back more easily.

I recently bought a small backpack at the thrift shop and cut out the foam backpad from it. I am going to test hiking with that in the back pad pocket of my G4 and using it for a sit pad. My hope is that the small size will make only a small amount of the pack touch my back.

Ethan L
(dueno) - F
awesome on 04/09/2009 22:30:05 MDT Print View

Wow, thanks for this awesome post. The Los Padres Forest is one of my favorite areas to go backpacking, and your pictures of the area inspired me to go take a trip next weekend to experience it for myself. I've hiked all over in almost the exact area you were in. I hiked from NIRA all the way to South Fork and back, about 6 years ago. A couple years back I hiked from McPherson Peak, down to Painted Caves, and then to Sycamore and hiked the whole back of the Manzana loop (following the Sisquoc) all the way to the Manzana Schoolhouse, and then up Hurricane Deck and came down Potereo and then out to NIRA. I haven't been hiking out there since the Zaca fires, and I'm glad to see from you pictures that things are growing back so well. Do you have any other useful information you can provide? How bad were the numerous stream crossings? Were you able to rock hop, or did you get pretty wet crossing? I'm thinking about going partway up Hurricane deck from Whiteledge to maybe Lost Valley, any insight on this?

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: awesome on 04/10/2009 09:13:03 MDT Print View

Ethan, I'm glad you enjoyed my trip report.

I have heard that Lost Valley Trail to Hurricane Deck has fallen into some disrepair. CCC crews have started working on the trail, but they have not yet gotten to the really bad parts. I don't know what the actual conditions are like, however. There are probably landslides. But I really have no idea. Friends of mine went up there but only got as far as the pine tree campsite because that's all they had time for. If you go, send me a report via my web site: I can pass it along.

I only hiked Hurricane Deck from Whiteledge in about 1 mile to clear up a spot where people always get lost. After that, prepare to get lost from time-to-time, bring loppers and a saw and be patient. The north-facing slopes of Hurricane Deck did not burn in the Zaca fire so wherever the trail goes behind, it's really overgrown. Last year we hiked from Whiteledge to Potrero. We had hoped the fire had cleared the Deck, but it hadn't and we got torn to shreds in the brush. There's some possibility to stick to the crest, but there are a lot of leftover dead bushes to get tangled in.

The trails are quite obscure since the fire. Volunteers have been flagging and putting up ducks to help you, and there may be human and bear prints to help you, too. It's amazing how the bears remember all the trails. The CCC is making progress, too.

Crossing the Sisquoc (and the Manzana from Schoolhouse back to Nira) will get you wet up to your knees. There is no way to stay dry. We had wet feet all day but stopped hiking in the afternoon and put our shoes and socks out to dry. It's not too bad, though. Just annoying. Someone counted 109 creek crossings on the entire Sisquoc Loop. 34 are between Nira and Schoolhouse. Losing the trail means more creek crossings, too.

Flowers were at their peak when I went, but we've had a little more rain so things are probably holding steady out there. Enjoy it!

Chris Benson
(roguenode) - F

Locale: Boulder
Nice! on 04/10/2009 09:23:02 MDT Print View

Great trip report! I've never been out there. It looks like a wonderful hike.

That half cuban, half spinnaker setup sounds pretty sweet.

Edited by roguenode on 04/10/2009 09:24:11 MDT.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Ultralight fun in the Los Padres on 04/10/2009 16:03:22 MDT Print View


What a great report on a great trip!

Your commentary was great, too!

I gotta make it out west.


Ethan L
(dueno) - F
Hurricane Deck on 04/10/2009 18:51:45 MDT Print View

Wow, I would have thought the whole Deck ridge line would have burned in the fire. Its always been a personal goal of mine to hike the entire length of the Deck. Infact, thats what the plan was a couple years ago, but when a friend and I hiked up from the Schoolhouse we had to come down Potrero because we couldn't go any further through the brush on the Deck without crawling on our hands and knees. I will have to see how far I can get going the other way this time. Thanks for the info though! I'll make sure to post something on your site. Thats where I got a bunch of info a couple years ago before I went out to hike.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Ultralight fun in the Los Padres on 04/14/2009 18:14:04 MDT Print View


I hiked the White Ledge loop (Nira to White Ledge via the Manzanna Trail and back to Nira via the Hurricane Deck/Lost Valley Trails) just before Christmas.

Nira to White Ledge along the Manzana Trail is fine. The section from the top of Condor Pass (above the Narrows) to White Ledge got burned out pretty good but folks have done a good job of placing carins and ribbons to mark the way. It'd be hard to get lost through here if you're familiar with the area at all or can read a topo. The first mile of Hurricane Deck from White Ledge was a little tricky but not too bad. This section of the trail got burned out and it's a little tough in places to tell the trail apart from the surroundings. There was the occasional saw cut stump/branch or faded ribbon marker to help. It sounds like Diane has helped to clear up this section just recently by placing some more ribbons so it shouldn't be too bad at the moment.

As you wrap around to the north-facing side of the Deck Trail, just past the 1 mile mark, the trail becomes much more visible (like a low tunnel through the brush); but it's overgrown with brush hanging into the trail. We cleared this up quite a bit with a set of loppers and a light hand saw all the way to the intersection with Lost Valley. These 3 miles of the Deck trail were pretty easy to follow (aside from the branches stabbing and scratching you) and we didn't have too much trouble staying on course.

As you begin to descend the Lost Valley Trail, there are three good sized slides in close proximity. They are pretty steep and exposed but you can get across them on foot if you're careful (a trekking pole or two would help). The top 1/2 of the Lost Valley Trail is really a mess. For a while, as you descend, you can walk along the old road (now trail) and weave your way in and out of the burned scrub without too much trouble or effort. As you descend farther into Lost Valley and come around to the north-facing slopes, the brush gets much thicker and the trail gets more difficult to pass. There are also some scary wash outs where the trail crosses small ravines, etc. The trail is "passable" but you need to give yourself plenty of time to fight your way down the top half of the Lost Valley Trail and be prepared to get scratched up and covered in soot. Consider it to be more like bush-wacking off trail than following even a primitive hiking trail. The lower half of Lost Valley Trail back to the Manzana Trail has been recently worked by CCC crews and is like a freeway. You can fly down this section.

Hope this helps.